Milwaukee Journal, August 7, 1983

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Elvis Costello keeps it fresh


Joel McNally

I don't care whose name he stole, it has been a long time since Elvis Costello has had to apologize about ripping anybody off.

Not that he doesn't collect from a broad range of musical styles. He went beyond rock a long time ago and made raids across the border into country, jazz and rhythm and blues.

How could anyone really be surprised when he showed up with strings and a horn section on his latest album, Punch the Clock (Columbia)?

With that title and his John Lennonist look on the cover, some people might suspect: Here goes Elvis doing the old working-class-hero bit.

But things are never that simple with Elvis. He can take familiar bits and pieces and put them together in new and interesting ways.

He revels in it. In one song, he even refers to himself as the "King of Thieves" and talks about changing his name again.

But the fact is that Costello is producing some of the most original and refreshing new music around.

It took me a while to come around to this conclusion. To tell you the truth, I didn't know what the guy was up to for a while and I wasn't sure that he did, either. But the more he does it, the more he does it.

One of the most intriguing songs, one that has an economic allusion or two, is called "Shipbuilding." The song is vaguely menacing. The life of the people is their work. But there are rumors all over town about the industry. It's coming back. It's moving out. It could kill you either way.

Despite the beautiful despair in Costello's voice and the ominous tinge to his writing, this is not an album of doom.

In a peppy little swing tune, "The World and His Wife," Costello suggests simply that the family of man is about as messed up as most families.

I always refuse to anoint rock 'n' roll saviors. There are just too many of them. They should all take numbers, like at a deli.

But Elvis Costello is something just as good. He is interesting.

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Milwaukee Journal, August 7, 1983


Joel McNally reviews Punch The Clock.

Images

1983-08-07 Milwaukee Journal page E-09 clipping 01.jpg
Clipping.

1983-08-07 Milwaukee Journal page E-09.jpg
Page scan.

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